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Traditional Births Could Increase Risk of Organ Prolapse

Update Date: Jul 02, 2013 12:52 PM EDT

For centuries, women gave birth via the vaginal birth canal. Babies who were unhealthy or needed a more intricate birthing method were left untreatable, resulting in the death of the baby or mother, or even both, since there were no other options.  With the advances made in medicine, doctors can now screen unborn infants for possible health complications and perform a cesarean section (C-sections) if the baby needs to be taken out of the womb immediately. Although one method is not necessarily better than the other since there are risks involved in both vaginal births and C-sections, a new study has tied vaginal births to an increased risk of organ prolapse.

"The choice between vaginal birth and C-section is a complex one, and our results are not meant to promote one over the other," said Dr. Marsha K. Guess, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine. "Our data will be useful to women and their obstetric providers as they weigh childbirth options."

Organ prolapse is a condition in which the organs near the vaginal canal falls out of place. Since the infant is pushed through this small canal, the birthing process could damage connective tissue, muscles, nerves and blood vessels. These damages in conjunction with hormonal changes and increased pressure could lead to the relaxation of the organs. The organs then lose support and move out of place.

The team composed of researchers from Yale School of Medicine and Wenzhou Third People's Hospital located in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China, looked at 110 pregnant Chinese women from the obstetrics clinic at the Chinese hospital. The researchers monitor the women, who were in their 36 to 38th weeks of pregnancy from April to May 2009. They found that women who gave birth during late pregnancy had more cases of organ prolapse. In addition, women who gave birth via the birth canal or C-section after going through labor had a lower chance of recovery from organ prolapse at six weeks, six months and a year post-birth when compared to women who delivered via the C-section method before labor.

The researchers stressed once again that even though their findings suggest that C-sections lower the risk of organ prolapse, the decision should still be made on a case-by-case basis.

The study was published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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